Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend
photo by Ron Cogswell
I am happy to report that the new authorized biography of the Greatest Giant Ever will be out on Feb. 9. A Giants Win hat tip to Jaybird's Jottings, which pointed out that pre-sales alone have vaulted his book to number three in Baseball History at Amazon. Here's the first few paragraphs of James Hirsch's prologue -- On May 24, 1951, a young center fielder who had dazzled crowds in the minor leagues left Sioux City, Iowa, traveling light: a change of clothes and some toiletries, his glove, his spikes, and his two favorite 34-ounce Adirondack bats. The twenty-year-old Alabaman was driven to the airport in Omaha, Nebraska, where he bought a ticket from United Airlines for an all-night journey, landing in New York early the following day. He had been there once before – three years earlier, to play in the Polo Grounds with the Birmingham Black Barons. On that team, the veterans had protected him, instructing the youngster on how to dress, act, and play ball; on how to represent his team, his city, and his race. But now, on a sunny morning at La Guardia Airport, Willie Mays slid into the back seat of a taxi and pressed his face against the window, alone. He had never seen so many people walk so fast in his life.
Mays was driven to the midtown offices of his employer, the New York Giants, and promptly escorted inside. At 5 feet 11 and 160 pounds, he did not yet have the sculpted body that would later evoke comparisons to Michelangelo’s finest work. He was taut and fluid, but not physically imposing. Only his rippling forearms and massive hands, each one large enough to grip four baseballs, hinted at his crushing strength.